The four and a half inch pointing trowel ... and the damage done

[** If you like this post, please make a donation to the IR&DD project using the secure button at the end. If you think it is interesting or useful, please re-share via Facebook, Google+, Twitter etc. To help keep the site in operation, please use the amazon search portal at the end of the post - each purchase earns a small amount of advertising revenue**]

This article is dedicated to the picnic table in the south west corner of the beer garden of Clarkes Bar in Drogheda. And to all who sail in her.

Anatomy and the Archaeologist
The human shoulder is a phenomenal mechanism. It is formed of a combination of three bones, two types of cartilage and 10 muscles and it can perform an astonishing range of movements. I'm 35 years old and right handed. Because I'm trying to limit my use of expletives I shall describe myself here as a field archaeologist. My right shoulder, located at the top of my trowelling arm, sounds as if it is lubricated by Lego bricks. At the other end of my trowelling arm is my wrist, an equally impressive demonstration of the power of evolution. That's supposed to consist of 13 bones in total, the 5 metacarpal bones that form the base of the hand and the 8 carpal bones that articulate against the distal end of the radius. Listening to my wrist snap, crackle and pop as I move it around I suspect that at some point in time those 13 bones have been substituted for hundreds of Rice Krispies. I now live in perpetual fear of ever letting my wrist come into contact with milk.

I suspect that anybody who fails to identify trowelling as a potential source of Repetitive StrainInjury whilst preparing a risk assessment really isn't trying too hard. It does get you wondering though doesn't it? What risks are we exposing ourselves too chasing this ridiculous career? I suspect I'm probably having some sort of mid-life crisis but seeing as I'm quite unable to buy an Audi sports car, I'm going to offer up this little discussion instead. On the off chance you don't want to listen to a lengthy rant from a depressed field archaeologist it's probably best if you turn this off now. The internet is no doubt full of much more enthralling places to be. I hear the porn is rather good at this time of year...

Ok, well that should have chased away the light weights. Time to let you into a secret. I love being an archaeologist! Honestly and absolutely there is not another job that I could imagine doing, and more than that, I'm pretty sure becoming an archaeologist saved my life.  Now that doesn't mean I'm not disgruntled and pissed off, what archaeologist worth their salt isn't? But I do love my job and I'd like to think the advantages and disadvantages of working as a field archaeologist could be discussed usefully, with a view towards some mythical time of improvement. Inspired in part by the formation of the Facebook group Representation for Irish Archaeologists, and the newly established IAI Pay Rates Working Group, I thought it would be timely to offer up some of the thoughts I've been mulling over for several years. But I'm going to speak about some things that never seem to get talked about publically, at least not until the wee small hours when everyone is sitting comfortably... What I want to discuss are subjects like drink, drugs and mental illness, and how they relate to the profession.

Irish Contract Archaeology and Mental Illness. Cause or Effect?
I feel it's fair to say that archaeologists are a fairly odd lot. As Philip Barker famously wrote, “No excavation is without its awkward characters, eccentrics or misfits”, and that most likely holds as true today as it did when first published in 1977. A certain weirdness is probably part of the selection criteria for people who elect to spend their time four feet down in a sloppy hole, earning a pittance, whilst being rained on. In my experience archaeologists tend to be intelligent, unusual, committed and passionate people, painfully capable in some areas, curiously incompetent in others. Archaeology is one of those rare professions where a bit of oddness is expected and downright strangeness can at least be tolerated. I'm sure most people who worked in Ireland during the boom will be able to think back to former colleagues who they can't imagine could have functioned in many other lines of work, and I would have to count myself among that number.

There are some interesting connections that can be made between the lifestyle of contract archaeologists, the occurrence of mental illness, and the levels of alcohol and drug misuse. The development of mental illness and drink and drug problems are believed to be influenced by a complex combination of factors relating to the genetic makeup of a person and the nature of their environment. The important part for the archaeological profession is that whatever the biological and sociological background of our compatriots may be, there are other factors that have a substantial impact on wellbeing. It is within our collective power to make alterations to these factors if we can identify avoidable problems and find appropriate ways of negating them.

Social stressors known to affect the chances of an individual or community developing mental health and/or drink and drug related problems include poverty, unemployment or underemployment and a lack of social cohesion. Additionally, immigrant populations are known to be disproportionately affected by these problems, relating typically to poor social conditions and limited opportunities. These factors are crucial to this discussion as, to be perfectly blunt, they could be part of the job description for most contract archaeology positions in Ireland.

These topics are difficult to address in due to a lack of data. Two profiles of the archaeological profession in Ireland have been undertaken, the first published in 2002, the second in 2008. A third survey was undertaken this summer but it will be some time before the results are processed and released. Unfortunately these surveys have been conducted from a very management orientated perspective and, whilst they contain a great deal of important and useful data, they do not provide any direct information about the mental wellbeing of the archaeologists, about the rates or alcohol, tobacco, and narcotic consumption, financial information beyond simply wage rates, or the social conditions and background of the archaeologists. In 2011 I undertook a small survey of 23 friends and colleagues to gauge their opinions about some of these issues, and much of the anecdotal evidence discussed below is based on those distinctly unscientific results.

The 2002 survey, undertaken by CHL Consulting Co, reported that there were an estimated 650 professional archaeologist in Ireland, with 47% of them working in the contract sector.  Archaeologists had high levels of educational qualification, with 99% of archaeologists having a primary degree, and 70% having a post graduate qualification. The survey struggled to contact contract staff but states that half of those working in contracting were employed on short term and/or part time contracts. It was concluded that the average earnings were not high, with a figure of €35,680 being stated as the average, but with the acknowledgment that had the full number of contract staff been represented this figure would have probably been reduced. The report suggests that the low earnings and poor employment conditions are the main reason why, despite having enjoyed their courses, the majority of graduates in archaeology "do not intend to pursue a career in archaeology and are not seeking vocational training in archaeology."

The more recent profile of the profession published by UCD in 2008 (but undertaken in 2006) found that there were 1709 professional archaeologists working in Ireland. The level of education had diminished slightly but remained high over all, with 80% having a primary degree and 41% having a post-graduate qualification. This shift is probably down to the increasing use of General Operatives in the contract sector, or their inclusion in the second survey when the first survey had identified only a single General Operative in the profession. The overall average wage across the whole of archaeology had increased only very slightly since the 2002 survey and stood at €37,680. Again this figure was thought to represent an over estimation due to a failure to obtain data from all of the poorly paid site staff. That the average wage had only increased by 5.6% in 4 years is a clear symptom of the common practice of employers not increasing wages in line with annual inflation and effectively producing an annual wage cut. The 2008 survey broke down the wage structure of the career in more detail than the previous study. It found that 76% of archaeologists earned less than the national average wage and that the largest category of staff, the site assistant, earned on average a shocking €12,000 per year less than the national average wage. The 2008 report also found that 70% of workers were subject to unstable duration of employment and that the majority of archaeologists had changed employer within the previous 12 months. It also noted that union representation was entirely absent from the Irish contract archaeology sector.

There is no official data on the levels of personal savings held by archaeologists, nor on their levels of home ownership or other sorts of measures of success and status such as number and type of foreign holiday, type and condition of their cars and so on. Amongst my closer acquaintances no one ever seemed to have very much money beyond the price of the next pint and a pouch of rolling tobacco, but there were obviously other people around who didn't suck at life as badly as we did. It's clear that Licensed Directors, State Sector Archaeologists and certain specialists were paid well enough to attain home ownership, but below those pay grades I suspect home ownership would have been all but impossible without the intervention of family money, or a lifestyle combining total abstinence with an afterhours job in prostitution.

Migration is a complex issue because not only were there a large amount of immigrant workers within the sector but the short term nature of the work required constant migration within the country as people moved from job to job. According to the 2008 survey, 45% of archaeologists were of non-national origin. This is a ridiculously high percentage for a skilled profession, and is the sort of figure more often seen in traditional transitory jobs like fruit picking. This figure had increased dramatically since the 2002 survey when only 18% of archaeologists were found to be from overseas. Fruit picking has clear parallels to archaeology in terms of it being poorly paid outdoor work dominated by short term contracts, exactly the sort of disadvantage that can lead to an industry being heavily dependent on recent immigrants.

Despite the reliance on large numbers of foreign born staff it seems that immigrants may have a particularly difficult time in progressing with their careers. According to the 2008 survey 71% of immigrants were employed as site assistants, and only 6% had achieved the well paying positions such as Site Directors, Senior Archaeologists or Mangers, although an additional 5% were employed as specialists. Obviously there is a question of the time it takes to adjust to the archaeology of a new country, but even taken that into account these figures seem unreasonably low. Surprisingly only 10 immigrants are listed as teaching staff at the universities, a suspiciously small number, so perhaps there was some issue with data collection. However it is hard not to see these figures and not to reflect once again on the similarity between immigrant archaeologists and fruit pickers.

Internal migration is a massive part of contract archaeological culture in Ireland, as people relocate frequently to maintain employment following one short term contract after another. My own situation illustrates this rather well, I moved to Ireland from the UK in 2001 and subsequently lived at 15 different addresses, in seven different towns, prior to my departure in 2012. I always found this one of the hardest aspects of the job. Just as you get settled down somewhere with a nice place to live and have developed a strong relationship with your colleagues it's time to pack up, move on and start all over again somewhere new. In effect most field archaeologists live in a sort of vast and dispersed mobile ghetto where everyone is away from home and social circles consist entirely of other archaeologists in similar circumstances. In other professions you get paid a premium for having to endure this sort of constant disruption, in contract archaeology you get the reverse. Not being able to put down roots and never feeling secure is extremely wearying and I'm sure a very real source of depression and anxiety. I know on several occasions I have moved somewhere new and have simply been unable to deal with the situation, becoming withdrawn and isolated and never establishing any bonds with the new crew. If you ever met me and found I was acting like a moody arsehole this may well be the reason. Well, that's my excuse anyway and I'll be damned if I'm not sticking to it!

We simply do not know how much archaeologists drink, but anecdotal evidence would suggest that heavy drinking is for many an accepted part of the lifestyle. After a long miserable day spent knee deep in fulacht juice it is no surprise that the next port of call for many archaeologists will be the pub. I know lots of archaeologists don't drink beyond a sensible level, and I actually know a few who are T-total, but personal experience suggests that towards the bottom of the career ladder alcohol consumption often runs out of control. Full blown medically defined alcoholism is perhaps much rarer than people often assume, but there are simply too many accounts of crazy alcohol fuelled lifestyles for this area to continue to be ignored. Whilst it may be appropriate to link the heavy drinking to possible depression and other work related malaise, the permissive nature of archaeological excavations should not be overlooked. It's easier for archaeologists to turn up to work with a killer hangover, or drunk and stinking of the booze they may have only stopped drinking a few hours previously, than it is for people working in many other professions, in particular those confined to a formal office environment. In such condition field staff can frequently find a discrete place to weather the storm, a ditch well away from the site director or a big pit at the far end of the site. Even a regular offender is likely to find their behaviour is covered by both their fellow diggers and the on site management team, and formal disciplinary action is all but unheard of. Alcohol related absenteeism is likewise often overlooked, and I suspect occurs at a level which would frequently trigger formal disciplinary action in any sensible working environment.

Similarly the levels of drug use in Irish archaeology has never been formally addressed. In my experience cannabis smoking is extremely common, although it would be impossible to offer any opinion as to whether it is more popular among archaeologists than within the population as a whole. I certainly suspect the amount of smoking dope at work is higher than would normally occur, a large excavation simply offers too many opportunities for tokers to indulge in their passion. On the other hand I suggest the use of other drugs is probably lower than might be expected. Mushrooms, LSD, Speed and Ecstasy seem to only form a very minor part of the contract archaeologists diet. Heroin and Crack don't appear to have any place in Irish archaeological culture. I only ever came across a single former Junkie from Ireland working in archaeology, although I did know several more who had moved to Ireland from elsewhere in the EU. In all cases they were clean during the time they were employed. Cocaine use seems to have been fairly minimal, and certainly the great surge in the popularity of cocaine in Ireland during the boom years seems to have largely passed over the heads of the Irish archaeologists. In discussing this topic several people have pointed out to me that this was almost certainly a result of financial constraints rather than a response to any ethical or medical concerns about the drug.

The more serious mental illnesses seem to be absent from Irish archaeology, which is not surprising as it is often impossible for people suffering from the more severe afflictions to maintain employment. Many people will be aware of the unfortunate case of the young Scandinavian archaeologist working on the Drogheda Bypass in 2001 who had a severe mental breakdown and had to be sent home after the Gardai were forced to intervene. That case is useful as it firstly illustrates the difference in consequences between severe mental illnesses and the less severe forms, but also its prominent place in the unofficial mythology of Irish Archaeology highlights how rare such serious incidences were.

One Interesting result of my unscientific survey was the suggestion that eating disorders may not have been very common amongst archaeologists. If this were confirmed during a proper investigation then, as with cocaine use, archaeologists would be seen to have bucked a national trend. An absence of eating disorders does rather makes sense given the context; even a quick glance at the typical excavation crew would highlight that physical appearance and body image are not generally a high priority.

Depression and anxiety seem to be the two most commonly cited examples of mental illness that archaeologists are vulnerable to, and these can be seen to be perfectly understandable responses to the prevalent working conditions and terms of employment. It is simply not apparent whether the instances of depression and anxiety were any more common within the archaeological sector than in the general population. Personally I would be surprised if they were eventually found to occur at the same rate as the wider population, contract archaeologists have every reason to become depressed or suffer from anxiety. If the levels were ultimately found not to be higher it would point to a level of resilience that would be worthy of recognition!

It is also worth discussing the level of resentment that can accumulate in an archaeologist over time. This is something I am weary about myself, and I am increasingly conscious of how pissed off I get about my situation. It does no one any good to be poisoned by bitterness. Year after year, disappointment after disappointment, this stuff builds up piece by piece. Whilst I'm not sure it would classify as a mental disorder, it is a reasonable and logical effect of people’s circumstance after all, it is certainly not a pleasant thing to live with. I become most aware of this when I speak to former colleagues who have left the profession. Some of the comments I have heard regarding their archaeological careers have left me pretty speechless. I'll quote one example, from a Licensed Director about the same age as myself who has moved on and will remain anonymous, "I have kept away from archaeology as much as possible to keep myself from cutting my fucking wrists with depression".

Entering the unknown
It will by now be apparent that there is much vital information that has simply not been gathered by either of the previous surveys and sadly was not covered by the questionnaire issued this summer for the next professional profiling project. Until this data can be gathered through a survey with a proper methodology it is difficult to reach any firm conclusions. There are a number of additional categories of information which I would like to propose as of being of interest and importance.

Rates of tobacco consumption are unknown, but with just 22% of the Irish population now smoking it seems to me that the rate within the contract profession might be considerably higher than in the wider community. There are all manner of links between mental health problems, alcohol and drug misuse and tobacco consumption. This subject is far too complex to go into in detail here, but it can be pointed out that whilst the relationships are not straight forward, high tobacco consumption within a social group may be a symptom of numerous underlying problems. If contract archaeologists were found to smoke at a higher rate than the national average then this would be a strong indication that something may be seriously wrong within the contract archaeology community, and this seems to be a promising area for future research.

The class background of archaeologists working in Ireland has never been addressed. I would suggest that this is important information as I suspect that people from a traditional working class background are underrepresented. This may have an effect on the academic framework of Irish archaeology, as a universally middle class perspective may be limiting the scope of our interpretations. More relevant to this discussion is the suspicion that middle class attitudes of mistrust or disinterest in the Union movement have not been beneficial to our profession and have led to an over reliance on a professional body that cannot or will not provide the type of support so much of the workforce desperately wants. Crucial terms such as 'collective action' and 'withdrawal of labour' are entirely absent from our discussions, and betray an overall unfamiliarity with the history and tactics of the fight for fair terms of employment.

Other topics that could be covered by future surveys include the quality of diet and nutrition, levels of exercise outside of work, amount of time archaeologists get to spend with their families (both immediate and extended), access to health care and other services such as dentists and, in time at least, life expectancy data. An extremely useful addition would be a baseline study of the health, wellbeing and background of people at the very beginning of their archaeological careers, during the first weeks of their first year at university.

Is it worth it?
Obviously if the situation is as bad as hinted at above we must question why anyone cares about being an archaeologist in the first place? Why don't we all just walk away and get real jobs? But working on a well-organised site, with a reasonable run of weather, proper equipment, a realistic timescale, and a crew with the right skill-level remains an incredibly rewarding experience. The endless lonely months of monitoring are quickly forgotten when the stars align and you finally get to work on a decent excavation. The relaxed working environment can be very enjoyable, and the work can be pleasingly physical without becoming a wearisome burden. It is well known that long distance runners can form an addiction to the endorphins released to counter the pain caused by pounding out knee destroying mile after mile. Is it too ridiculous to speculate that something similar might be going on with trowelling? The excitement of always being on the verge of discovering a nice artefact never leaves, and the thrill of seeing unknown sites emerge as the top soil is stripped away is endlessly compelling. The sense of accomplishment of a job well done, or of testing your skills to the limit is something many other lines of work would fail to replicate. Archaeologists should never stop learning, and each site presents new methodological or technological problem to solve. There can be a tremendous sense of camaraderie on site, and when the site is well run there is a pleasure to be had in being a part of a large communal effort. For those with drink and drugs problems, or with mental illnesses, an archaeological site can be a liberating place to work. The compassion with which some senior staff treat crew members with obvious problems does them great credit. This recuperative aspect of archaeological excavation is being explored increasingly in the UK, most prominently with the high profile Operation Nightingale, but it has also been explored through the Turbo Island project in Bristol, and other community based projects.

The question being asked here is not whether an individual project can be a rewarding experience, it clearly can be. But after 10 or 15 years working in archaeology should we not be able to expect to have more to show than a dodgy arm, a scarred and fatty liver, burnt out lungs, a maxed out overdraft, a worrying credit card debt and a car on its way to the scrappy? The sense of communal ownership that crews feel about their sites dissolves alarmingly fast at the end of an excavation, when the site director and a few supervisors disappear off with the archive and the artefacts and everyone else is left looking for a new job in another new town.

Improving prospects?
Contract archaeologists fall into an employment protection void. The impermanence of our contracts denies us normal employment rights. As an industry we are too small and too awkward to have been scooped up by the union movement. To date we have failed to successfully establish a representational body that actually, or at least actively, cares about the ordinary worker in the sector.

A comparison with the construction industry is illuminative. The Construction Industry Federation agreements lay out a framework of internal training, career progression, agreed pay scales and welfare requirements that read like pure Science Fiction or Communist Propaganda when compared to what has been produce by the IAI. This disparity becomes all the more ridiculous once we acknowledge that most archaeologists actually work in the construction industry but are not a trade recognised in or covered by the CIF agreements. In 2011 the Construction Workers Health Trust published a survey that examined a range of health issues that led to absenteeism and early retirement among construction workers. Alongside a whole host of other medical problems a series of mental health disorders were included, as was alcoholism. It seems then that the construction industry has forged a path that contract archaeology could usefully follow.

Whilst it may be easy to make a few jokes about archaeologists being drunken dope smoking loons, it does a serious disservice to the actual situation. Heavy drinking is not a laughing matter, it does terrible damage to the body's internal organs and can be a source of all sorts of mental unpleasantness. Dope smoking may be becoming ever more socially acceptable, but at the same time it is becoming abundantly clear that it can cause serious psychosis and trigger latent mental illnesses, including bi-polar disorders, especially given the strength of the new hybrid strains of weed. Some people have even claimed that smoking cigarettes isn't terribly good for you. Living in a state of heightened anxiety and stress for any extended length of time is seriously bad for your body. This is most prominently seen in very poor urban areas, where even once other factors such as drug use and violence are taken into account people are still found to be dying at an extraordinarily young age from a mixture of seemingly unrelated disease. Although the medial causes are not fully understood, there is a strong suspicion that the uniting factor may be that people are critically affected by living at a continuous high level of stress, exacerbated by poor diet. One of the body’s responses to stress is the release of the hormones Cortisol and Adrenalin. In small doses these produce extremely useful effects, but when a person lives in a continually stressed state these hormones begin to trigger all manner of harmful processes in the body that may be the root cause of the range of seemingly unrelated diseases. Whilst it would be churlish to suggest that the life of an Irish field archaeologist is comparable to the situation of the residents of the worst American and European ghettos, there are some stark similarities, and the long term damage that might be being caused to people's health needs to be considered with some urgency.

We need to move away from a situation where self-inflicted problems are part of a permissive way of life. Staff should be called up when late or absent due to drinking, smokers should be subject to limiting fag breaks to official break times and on site dope smoking should be eliminated. Archaeological employers should expect a more professional attitude from the workforce and, in line with the construction industry, could perhaps start enforcing random drink and drug tests. If we are to be taken seriously by the construction industry then we also need to have a look at our collective appearance; whilst individual expression is all well and good, we do ourselves no favours by turning up to work looking like we've just come back from a wet year at Glastonbury.

At the same time we should be working towards a situation where some glaringly obvious and long standing problems are finally resolved. Whilst anyone who entered archaeology because they thought it would be a good way to earn money was demonstrably delusional, there should be no reason why a workforce that is so highly qualified and skilled should be denied basic rewards for their hard work that comparatively skilled people working in any other industry would expect. Home ownership should be realistic and attainable, ownership of a decent reliable car should be universal, and other niceties of life such as foreign holidays and a high quality diet should be a given. Financial security in terms of savings accounts that actually has some savings in them and pension funds that actually accumulate over time should become a normal state of affairs. The former is obviously the responsibility of the Employee, but the Employer must provide high enough wages to make setting some aside in a savings account feasible. Pensions are a difficult issue given the frequency with which archaeologists change employers. The obvious solution is to halt that practice and develop models where long term stable employment becomes much more common. In the absence of that sort of reorganisation there is need to find a type of pension scheme which is in the control of the employee and which employers will feel happy to contribute towards for the duration of short term contracts.

Working conditions also need to be altered. In particular the standards of onsite welfare facilities needs to be dramatically improved, even enforcing the actual legal minimum standards would represent a massive change in many instances. Hard wearing all weather clothes should be provided by the company, for the comfort of the staff and in order to provide a more professional appearance. The cheap stuff that disintegrates within minutes of being handed out is simply an embarrassment to all involved. We all know it rains in Ireland, and archaeologists have to be prepared to work in some pretty bad conditions. However at some point it simply becomes counterproductive to remain on site, and this should be subject to a formal agreement. Such a measure need not mean a loss of productivity. If welfare facilities are up to scratch and equipment levels are appropriate then it is quite possible to begin post excavation processing whilst rained off site. This is simply a matter of being properly organised in advance, and many companies have successfully proved this is possible, unfortunately without it becoming an established norm.
An aspect that desperately needs to improve is career development. Hard work and competence should be rewarded with assistance to move up the career ladder. Too often opportunities are awarded through random chance, simple convenience or managerial laziness. Site supervisors are often left unable to progress in their careers due to a lack of post excavation experience. Post excavation work they have every right to expect to come to them is too frequently palmed off on office based staff denying the site supervisors their route for progression. Similarly names are too often left off of reports, leaving site staff unable to claim the credit they deserve. Small improvements in these areas would make a tremendous difference to people’s sense of self-worth. If a person has been doing a good job for a reasonable period, they should be rewarded with training which would ultimately benefit both the employee and the employer. Archaeologists love to see their work get published. Employers often fail to exploit the positive effects of assisting someone getting one of their sites published in a magazine or journal. Any small cost incurred would no doubt be repaid by the renewed enthusiasm of the staff. Instead of everything being left in grey literature limbo, companies should pay for those extra couple of dates that are needed to progress with a project, sort out the missing specialist report, or arrange for the drawings to be taken beyond multi-coloured AutoCAD stage so they are actually useable.

As the recession took hold there was a lot of talk about transferrable skills, and I note this is a line many Universities currently push as they attempt to lure in new students. It is my understanding that around 95% or more of archaeology graduates in Ireland and Britain find work outside of archaeology within a few years of finishing their degree. This is categorically not because of their valuable transferable skills. Let's get this clear, transferrable skills are a myth. A list of transferable skills is a list of things that you can sort of do but which other people are much better at doing and are properly qualified in. In terms of Continuous Professional Development any training offered to staff in subjects that could be placed onto these transferable skills lists should be undertaken through externally organised courses and lead to recognisable qualifications that would mean the newly acquired skills actually are transferrable. Until that principle is accepted then as a field archaeologist your list of transferable skills reads as follows; you look like shit, you smell kind of funky and you don't mind standing outside in the rain. Congratulations, you can now apply for a job as a scarecrow.

Employers should spend a little more time thinking about how they can improve how their staff feel about themselves and the company they work for. A small amount of time and money could provide a re-invigorated work force that would easily repay that investment through improved productivity. A smaller, better trained workforce, with a measure of contractual stability will feel that their employer has invested in them and is likely to feel like they have an investment in the company in return. I have no doubt that a crew of 25 such motivated individuals could do the same amount of work as 40 archaeologists who don't give a toss and who all have hangovers. When the recession bit archaeologists saw their earnings fall at an astonishing rate, far and above the sort of decreases reported by the press for other sectors. Rather than using the wage bill as the place where savings could be made to win competitively tendered contracts, it is possible that a serious efficiency drive could have been successfully implemented instead. Obviously that would have seen an overall reduction in the number of jobs, but at least those remaining in employment would have had a job that was worth having and that was worth fighting for.

I am not one of the people that resents the major company owners. Nor do I worry about how they sleep at night. It is my understanding that they sleep very well, on expensive mattresses under luxurious sheets. And that's fine, they have worked hard and earned their money. They do a job I would be quite incapable of. Left to my own devices I would surely blow the budget every time on elaborate excavations, extensive post-excavation, and shiny publications. It is hard, however, not to conclude that some of their behaviour over the years has been incredibly crass. Everyone involved needs to realise that there is a very complicated reciprocal arrangement between employers and their workforce. I hope to have highlighted some of the negative consequences of poor employer-employee relations, where at the most extreme employers are needlessly affecting people's health in quite severe ways. On the other hand poor behaviour by employees does little to promote the cause of the workforce. If field archaeologists ever want to sit at the adults table they need to start acting in a more professional manner and stop treating archaeology as an extended adolescence. Should both parties start to make little steps in the right direction the result will be mutually beneficial and over time we may end up with the profession we actually deserve. What I desperately hope is that we can begin to resolve the situation and that the next generation of aspiring archaeologists will not have to put up with the same bullshit that we have already had to put up with for far too long.

Links & Further Research

Tobacco and mentalhealth [and also]

**Update: September 15 2013: Matt Nicholas has written a detailed reply to this post, on the issue of drug testing in archaeology on his Tutania blog: Feel Good Hit of the Summer.

[** If you like this post, please consider making a small, secure, donation via PayPal. Each donation helps keep the Irish Radiocarbon & Dendrochronological Dates project going! **]


Popular posts from this blog

Three Billboards Outside University College London: A case of approved plagiarism by Prof Andrew Bevan et al.

The dreaded first test post!

"Always remember to draw the swastika turning to the right": Some thoughts on swastika directionality in Early Medieval Irish Art